One of the most profound questions ever posed to Jesus by mortal man was asked by Pontius Pilate, “What is truth?” (Jn. 18:38). While this question was likely asked by Pilate with a sarcastic tone it is nevertheless a question that continues to reverberate. By definition, truth in a general sense is “what is true in any matter under consideration as opposed to what is false.” In reference to religion, the term denotes “what is true in things appertaining to God and the duties of man.” (Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon)
Nevertheless, in our society, there are various views of truth especially “religious truth.” Some suggest that truth can never fully be known. Others contend that truth is subjective. Subjective truth is a truth based on a person’s perspective, feelings, or opinions. A third view of truth is that truth is relative. Relative truth might also be called situational truth. In other words, a thing is true based on or depending on something else. In this case, truth continually changes as it is related to people, customs, or culture.
The Bible clearly establishes that truth is absolute. In other words, a thing either is true or it is not true. There is no grey area; there is no middle ground. In logic, this principle is referred to as the law of excluded middle. The law of excluded middle states that “every precisely stated statement is either true or false.” Jesus said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth”
(Jn. 17:17). If truth is subjective to one’s personal perspective, feelings, or opinions, how one responds to God’s word is determined by him. If truth is relative then how one responds to God’s word may be determined on the culture, custom, or situation at any given time. In either case, each person, group, or nation might have their own truth. In short, man would be free to determine the truth for himself! God would be left out of the equation.
Such views of truth are wholly contradictory to Scripture! Paul wrote,
For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar (Rom. 3:3-4).
In reproof to Job, God demanded,
Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous? (Job 40:7-8)
Man has neither the knowledge, wisdom, nor the right to “disannul” or make void the judgments or decrees of God! Yet, when man claims to have his own truth in contradiction to God’s revealed absolute truth, he condemns God while trying to justify himself. Again, God’s words to Job are instructive:
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? (Job 38:1-2)
Man seeking to determine truth from his own perspective or in relation to situations around him is on a slippery slope indeed. David worded it thusly, “Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not” (Psalm 17:5).
What are some examples of man seeking to justify himself by “his own truth”? When man affirms he can enter into or remain in an adulteress relationship he is living by his own truth (cf. Mt. 19:9). When man affirms that worshipping God with mechanical instruments or that salvation is by faith only without any act of obedience on the part of man he is seeking to justify himself by his own truth (cf. Col. 3:16-17; Heb. 7:12ff; Mt. 7:21).
Truth is absolute in nature, thus the divine warning: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it” (Dt. 4:2). What God has said is truth (Jn. 17:17). Truth can be known (Jn 8:32; 1 Jn 2:21). When man determines truth by his own standards he changes the truth of God into a lie (Rom. 1:25). Man is responsible to do truth (Jn. 3:21) and will be judged accordingly (Dt. 18:18-19; Rom. 2:2, 8; Acts 17:31).
The Midtown Messenger, Midtown Church of Christ Weekly Bulletin, April 28, 2019.